I have yet to meet a Pat MacEwen book that I haven’t immediately loved. While wildly different in both setting and feel from her last story we reviewed, The Dragon’s Kiss is no exception to that rule. I’m glad to report that this book also appears to be the first in a series, and I’m already waiting for the next one to come out.
The story centers around Michael, a crippled boy who comes from a long line of dragon riders. The dragons and their riders protect his small village from the Qing empire, a much a larger force that used to enslave the people from his village to mine gold and other precious minerals out of the nearby volcanic hills. Michael dreams of flying a dragon himself, but since he’s wheelchair bound, has seizures, and can’t even communicate with the people around him unless he uses sign language, that dream seems unlikely to happen. He can’t truly measure up to the other cadets in physical activities, so he has to bear with the ridicule of his cousin and the other boys, and the cold disdain of his dragon-rider father.
However due to the persistence and influence of his aunt, he is allowed to participate in some of the cadets’ lessons. He is out at the training grounds when one of the younger dragons goes berserk for no apparent reason. Michael hears a scream, and someone yelling in pain. The dragon breaks free of its handlers and charges right for where Michael is sitting in his wheelchair. There’s no way Michael is going to be able to push himself out of the way in time to avoid being trampled. In desperation, he pleads in his head with the dragon, asking it to please not step on him.
To his surprise, the dragon actually swerves and barely manages to miss him. He starts to realize, that maybe the screaming in his head is actually the dragon’s cries of pain. He tries to get it to listen to him, because if they can’t get it under control any other way, the riders will put it down. There’s too much potential damage to life and limb otherwise. It’s in too much pain to pay Michael any attention.
He yells in his head for help, and several of the adult dragons suddenly show up on the edge of the training grounds, crooning something to the younger dragon. It does pay attention to them, and at least stop thrashing and charging around. With their help, Micheal is able to find where a poorly tightened harness buckle has turned and cut a deep gash in the young dragon’s side. Disaster is diverted for the day, but no one can understand what just happened, or how Michael knew the young dragon was hurt in the first place. And with his clumsy tongue and rudimentary hand signs, Michael can’t explain it to them either, even if he knew what he was trying to explain. He’s not really sure what happened either.
Have the dragons heard him? Is he speaking to them? And if he is speaking to them, why do they only appear to understand him some of the time?
This was a totally engrossing read, and my only complaint is that it ended too soon. I definitely want more of these characters. I am very much looking forward to the next one.